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Impact of a doula on birth outcomes

Nadine Watters
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Continuous support throughout pregnancy, labor and birth, and postpartum is something every expectant mother can benefit from in one way or another. Recent findings published in The Journal of Perinatal Education show the impact doulas have on healthy birth outcomes.

Dr. Gruber aimed at investigating the outcomes of doula-assisted maternity care among socially disadvantaged mothers who were at risk for adverse outcomes. (1)

The term doula derives from the Greek for female servant

What exactly is a doula? A doula will provide one-on-one assistance to women during the birth process in the forms of physical, emotional and informational support. This continuous care revolves around the mother and her desires and needs in order for her to experience the best birth regardless of the circumstances, let it be hospital birth, home birth, planned/unplanned cesarean sections, etc. (2)

Results of the study reveal great benefits

All participants in this study were offered individual case management, peer group education and support, and doula support. The program in place was designed to help women whose chances of adverse outcomes were higher due to factors such as low income or racial disparities.

The women were divided into two groups, those who chose doula assistance and those who elected not to work with a doula. A doula and expectant mother met a minimum of two times before the birth, continuous assistance throughout labor and birth, and visit at least twice postpartum.

Results include: Doula-assisted mothers were…

  • four times less likely to have a low birth weight baby
  • two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or their baby
  • significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding

Other benefits shown by similar studies include shorter labor, a reduced need for pain medication, improved outcomes for both mother and baby, improved breastfeeding, decreased postpartum depression, greater maternal satisfaction, and better mother-infant interaction.(3)

These findings show the empowerment women receive to achieve not only birthing a healthy baby, but also attaining a better and more manageable birth experience with the support of a doula. Working with a doula is a cost-effective method at attaining positive birth outcomes for all expecting women.

“A doula is constantly aware that the mother and her partner will remember this experience throughout their lives. By mothering the mother during childbirth, the doula supports the parents in having a positive and memorable birth experience (3).”

Sources for this article include:

(1) www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
(2) www.icea.org
(3) doulafoundation.org

Image source: https://flic.kr/p/82DDgj

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